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President Mbeki's Zimbabwe Mediation Criticized

South African President Thabo Mbeki’s role as a mediator between Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe and the opposition MDC is being criticized. Mbeki is mandated by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to mediate between the government and the opposition. But some opposition members of South Africa’s parliament say President Mbeki has shown leniency and even favoritism toward President Mugabe.

Wetshotsile Seremane is the spokesman on African affairs for the opposition Democratic Alliance. He explained to VOA why the opposition in South Africa is not pleased with President Mbeki’s mediation role.

“The reason is that they are putting conditions for the opposition that they must cease being violent; they must accept that it is a legitimate government. This is very wrong. When you mediate, you don’t take sides. You try to equalize the situation. You ask all parties that they must not be violent against each other. But in this case when you tell the victims that they must not be violent, and at the same time they must change their opinion in terms of whether they regard the unfair election that were not free as fraudulent, it is being unfair,” he said.

Seremane said the South African opposition perceives President Mbeki’s mediation strategy as favoring President Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

“We are not passing judgment. We are saying whatever you do, do it on an even-handed manner. To use the old idiom, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Don’t try and be careless as though you have got a certain bias to others and not to others too,” Seremane said.

South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dllamini-Zuma had reportedly told critics to stop taking a war approach to President Mbeki’s mediation efforts.

But Seremane described the minister’s comments as those of a pseudo-democrat who does not want to use the tenets of democracy.

“What she is doing, she’s being very reckless and childish in a sense that people are dying there. You can report me as saying that it is absolute nonsense and irresponsibility to say all is well let’s forget about it. The people are suffering in Zimbabwe, and they are transferring over here. And if we fold our hands, there’s going to be trouble in South Africa and the whole southern Africa area will burn,” he said.

Seremane said President Mugabe’s criticism that some MDC members had been getting training in South Africa to cause trouble in Zimbabwe is typical of most dictators.

“If you look at all dictators, that’s cheap propaganda they have been using. Sometime I think that everywhere there is a tonic, it must be an enemy of Africa. As I pointed out, there is a prophetic composer. He said our problem that is in Africa, we keep on complaining that we are suffering. But if we look deep into ourselves, we are our own creator of this suffering because we are afraid to confront each other,” Seremane said.

He said it is a figment of President Mugabe’s own imagination that Britain or the opposition in South Africa is seeking his overthrow.

“The opposition in South Africa wants Zimbabwe to succeed as it has the potential to be some country that we can be proud of. But power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Now we can say the police have gone out of their minds. If you just say the government is doing this which is wrong, you ‘re dead. Our Bantustans were just like that,” Seremane said.